So accenture has discontinued its sponsorship relationship with Tiger Woods. Here is the press release:
NEW YORK; Dec. 13, 2009 – Accenture (NYSE: ACN) today announced that it will not continue its sponsorship agreement with Tiger Woods.
For the past six years, Accenture and Tiger Woods have had a very successful sponsorship arrangement and his achievements on the golf course have been a powerful metaphor for business success in Accenture’s advertising. However, given the circumstances of the last two weeks, after careful consideration and analysis, the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative for its advertising. Accenture said that it wishes only the best for Tiger Woods and his family.
Accenture will continue to leverage its “High Performance Business” strategy and “High Performance Delivered” positioning in the marketplace. The company will immediately transition to a new advertising campaign, with a major effort scheduled to launch later in 2010.
Nike ,on the other hand, according to Reuters is not dropping Tiger. In fact Nike Chairman Phil Knight says “it’s all part of the game” when dealing with athletes. For instance, there was Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape issue. Nike has learned that with athletes, wait it out and the public is pretty forgiving.
What I found interesting was Accenture’s press release. I really liked how they phrased things. Now Accenture is a global consulting firm. I think they do finance, tech, and a bunch of things. They used to be a part of Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm, so think men in white short sleeves, glasses, pencils and ledgers. So, if you’d ever seen those accenture ads, they were usually somewhat expansive, wide open space, with the prominent figure of Tiger Woods on the greens focused and studying the greens before his par shot. The ads were good. You felt open about Accenture. You did not feel that they were stodgy or closed in, but open to possibilities, yet competently focused on accomplishing a goal (Tiger for par). So I think Tiger’s image was very useful in giving them a contemporary edgy image.
Now, with the Tiger scandal, the slow trickle of bad news, and Tiger’s indefinite leave of absence from golf, Tiger sponsors then had to make the decision if they would stick with him or drop him. For sports outfits, the Michael Phelps drug scandal was probably instructive. Phelps recovered from that and shouldn’t have problems with sponsorships going forward. So sport related companies have nothing to gain by dropping Tiger. However, for a company like Accenture, it is a different ball game. They are not a sports company. In fact the Tiger image was what they describe as “a powerful metaphor for business success.” So Accenture is betting that they can switch metaphors if needed and proceed.
About their press release, what I like is that they initially recognize the mutually beneficial relationship. This absolves them from any perceptions of sanctimoniusness, i.e., we are dropping Tiger because we are holier than thou. They agree, he made money, we leveraged his image to improve our brand, now his image no longer fits our brand. The language is very positive and forward-looking. I just flat-out loved how they handled it. It is the transparency of motives that makes this press release very successful. As for their new advertising campaign, one has to wonder if they had a plan B all along. Did they know what Tiger was like in his spare time and did they have potential replacement advertising campaigns in the wings? Who knows. It would interesting to watch.